An A-Z Field Guide to Library Crazies


The thoughts written on the walls of madhouses by their inmates might be worth publicizing. ~Georg Lichtenberg

"Mom, can I put used condoms in here?"

It’s hard for me to write about work. I spend over 40 hours per week there, I usually like my job, and I’m lucky to even have a job at the library right now, what with the era of e-books, increasing automation and tight city budgets. But the idea for this post has been itching for several weeks now. The only way to stop the itch is to write about it.

Many of you may be regular library patrons. Some of you may have also worked in a library. If you have, I’m sure you’ll recognize some of these loonies, crazies and all-around weirdos. Public libraries, by definition open to the public, attract crazy people the way bright lights attract moths. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t encounter at least one of these (and when I do, I celebrate by drinking copiously when I get home). Here’s to the crazies! I can’t help but have at least some sympathy for them. Okay, maybe I don’t.

It's just like work!

A

Argumentative Arnie

The thing is, this guy almost never wants to argue over something worthwhile (like whether he paid his fines or not.) It’s usually the guy who swears up and down that Stephen King, instead of Dean Koontz, actually wrote Intensity. Or that we’re the ones who have his phone even though we’ve looked for it six times. Dealing with him is like being stuck in the old Monty Python “Argument Clinic” sketch.

B

Broodmare Brenda

There are some really nice families with lots of kids I look forward to seeing at the library. Yours is not one of them. I know I’m gonna spend the next hour cleaning up the damage your offspring wreak while you’re busy checking Facebook. Here’s a parenting tip from somebody who doesn’t even have kids: be an adult and don’t let your kids behave like Tasmanian devils on meth in public.

C

Cheapskate Charlotte

I realize times are tough, lady, but is it really worth cussing me out and telling me I have the intelligence of a Pomeranian over twenty cents? And yes, I did make note of your Prada bag and your Lexus SUV. You’re not getting off my shit list anytime soon.

D

Dumbass Daryl

I’m speaking as slowly and plainly as I possibly can…but I don’t see any porch lights on. I tell this guy the same thing every single day and each time it’s as if it’s the first. This is the guy who stands blankly outside the door every day waiting for us to open, like a zombie from a Romero flick. If Zombie Apocalypse ever starts, he gets beheaded first.

E

Email Eddie

The internet is so great, isn’t it? With so many free email servers to choose from, there’s sure to be one for everyone. This guy is the one who asks me to choose his own password when creating a new account, and then asks if “password” is a good choice. He’s also the one who can’t figure out how to submit the simplest of job forms via email. And he wonders why he can’t get a job.

F

Foodie Fiona

I like coffee and I love Tostitos. However, I hate coffee and Tostitos or, for that matter, anything edible at the library. This chick decides it’s all right to sit and munch and slurp right in front of our computers. It’s not only disgusting, but it’s causes several stations to be ruined. Do us all a favor and leave the crap in your car. If you’re that hungry, just leave.

G

Gross Greg

We have our share of transients in the library, but every branch has at least one of these patrons. This guy isn’t homeless, but has a definite aura of groddiness to him. Whether it’s greasy, unwashed hair, smelly clothes, or the stench of stale tobacco smoke, we feel as if merely by touching him we could be contaminated. We think he might be on that Hoarders show.

H

Horny Harold

Go right ahead and tell us you want an unfiltered computer session for “research” and see how much we believe you. We know you’re trying to find the weirdest porn you can. And we catch you every single time. It’s a real bummer to know our tax dollars are partially funding your libido, isn’t it?

I

Illiterate Ivan

We have signs everywhere at the library: from “No Cell Phones” to “No Food or Drink” to “No Unattended Children.” This guy manages to ignore every one of them. He’s also the one who couldn’t spell “cat” when spotted the “a” and the “t,” and who gets lost when being directed to the bathroom. We’re surprised he managed to find his way to the library at all, unless he was dropped here from a tornado in Kansas.

J

Junkpile Johnny

This guy is a cousin to Gross Greg, but slightly different. He’s the one who, like a golden hamster on crack, squirrels away little stashes throughout the library. Whether it’s Agatha Christie paperbacks or scratch paper or the little golf pencils, we find his stuff everywhere we go. He’s also the resident litterbug. We actually found his empty vodka bottle one night.

K

Klepto Kate

She always comes in with those shifty, haunted eyes, like she’s done this a thousand times already. And then, when I go to pull holds for Twilight and The Hunger Games, whammo bammo, they’re mysteriously gone. This patron is more annoying than crazy, although a fair amount of them are nuts. What never ceases to surprise me is what they steal…are they telling me they couldn’t find a copy of Fear of Flying for a quarter at the local Goodwill?

L

Lost Lena

I see this type of patron at least once a week. She’s usually looking for “that red book,” or “a book that has a bear and a dog,” or “this one book my teacher told me I need to read.” Of course, if she’s in school, she never bothered to write down the title, the author, or any relevant fact. Then she gets upset and tells me I’m being difficult. I’m a librarian, not a mentalist.

M

Mumbling Morris

You know, I wanna reach right over that counter, grab you by your collar, and shout “ENUNICIATE! I don’t know whether you just said ‘bathroom,’ ‘book,’ or ‘Botswana!’ I really have no idea, so speak up!” Willy Wonka was right when he kept shouting “Mumbler!” to Mike Teavee.

N

Needling Naomi

“You know, my tax dollars pay your salary.” “You know, the library in Bellevue is much friendlier.” “Me and my children are never coming back to your branch.” You know what? This is America. Nothing is forcing her to come here. As for the money issue, I’ll give her a frickin’ dollar if she’ll get the hell out of my branch and take her sanctimonious attitude with her.

O

Oblivious Ophelia

“Hello, McFly?!” This gal is so stuck in her own little bubble (or often, inane phone conversation) that a Mack truck carrying a payload of sledgehammers isn’t nearly subtle enough. Chuck Norris riding a velociraptor might not even register on her radar. Then again, she would probably deserve to be eaten.

P

Proselytizing Penny

You see that little sign on the door? The one that says “No Soliciting?” That includes religion. I don’t care if you love Jesus, Krishna, the Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. When at the library, keep it to yourself. And please save some trees and stop leaving your charming religious tracts on the floor, the shelves, and randomly in all our vampire books. I’m sure the teenagers can find plenty of paths to eternal damnation without your help.

Q

Quiet Quinn

I really do try and be nice to kids who come to the library. But this kid is so damn shy, it’s spooky. I’m convinced he’s plotting to slip an arsenic mickey into my Red Bull when I’m not looking. Somehow I don’t think a Clone Wars bookmark is going to placate him. And he usually checks out things like A Clockwork Orange despite being only eight.

R

Rambling Robert

Undoubtedly your life story is fascinating, with periods of thrills and excitement and heartstopping peril punctuated only briefly with spells of boredom. That does not mean I, a captive audience paid to do your bidding, want to hear it. Just ask me where you can find The Lost Symbol and be on your merry way. Call Maury Povich if you really want to spill your guts.

S

Stalker Stewart

So you want to go out with me. I’m sort of flattered, in a pathetic kind of way. However, that does NOT give you the right to follow me around when I am at the gym, the store, the post office, or the movies. Get any closer and I might go all Dirty Harriet on your sorry unwashed ass.

T

Trashy Therese

I have mixed feelings about these patrons, because, I tell myself, at least they’re reading. That doesn’t mean I like having to repeat the title Bitch: The Beginning over the phone for confirmation. These are usually the women who let their daughters check out Zane and Jackie Collins. Ah, well, I suppose Hooters is always hiring.

U

Underwear Ulrica

As a librarian, I make snap judgments all the time on patrons who walk in the door. Everything from “clean” and “reasonably smart” to “trouble” or “complete moron.” And you know what? I have yet to meet a patron whose underwear is visibly showing who falls into the “reasonably smart” category. Pull up your bloody pants already.

V

Vindictive Vincent

These patrons can be downright dangerous, especially if they already have a few screws loose. These are the types who come in late at night and berate us for something completely out of our hands (“Why don’t you have Brave New World? My son has to read it by tomorrow! Who cares if 200 other people are on hold? I NEED IT NOW!”) We also have to watch our backs with these guys…not to mention our public bathroom, our cars, and our personal belongings.

W

Wacky Wanda

Sometimes crazies can be fun. This kind of crazy makes me want to run, screaming, in the opposite direction. These are the patrons who want to show us their new cowboy boots…by putting them on top of the counter. The ones who want to tell us the life story of every single one of their ferrets. The ones who request weird books about alien anal probes and the like. And that’s generally the wrong kind of crazy.

X

Xenophobic Xavier

You know what’s great about the library? We have books to suit all tastes. And there’s nothing that says you have to read any of them. So please, stop telling us how eeeevil we are for carrying literature about Islam, Mexicans, Scientology, or whatever else your bigoted mind cannot wrap itself around this week. Take a leaf from Dr. Jones, Sr. and try reading books instead of burning them.

Y

Yodeling Yoshi

We library people like music as much as everyone else. These patrons take it to a whole new level, warbling loudly and off-key along with their Youtube videos or iPod. When we tell them to stop, they always give us a dirty look as if we’ve just interrupted Pavarotti. Everyone’s a critic…especially captive audiences.

Z

Zippy Zachary

We hope you make it to the Olympic 100 meter final one day. Just please don’t train here in the library. If we could find your mom, we’d thank her for raising an active kid, but berate her for letting him run around like a springbok while indoors.

Who have I left out? I know somebody else knows other kinds of crazies…I’d love to hear about them for a future edition of the Field Guide. More cool stuff coming this week too, so stay tuned, P&Q Rangers!

As always…if you enjoyed this post, be sure to click “Like” and add P&Q to your subscriptions and blogroll.

If you see a crazy, just point

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on March 7, 2012.

17 Responses to “An A-Z Field Guide to Library Crazies”

  1. Things I do at my local library:

    Silence my phone/vibrate. I can barely stomach everyone else’s ringtones, but I also don’t like drawing attention to myself, plus there is a GIANT sign that says silence cellphones, unfortunately most people lack the capacity to read which is kind of ironic.

    There is a food nook/used book shop (they’re both in the same place) but I will never buy food or bring my food to consume there (maybe I’ll buy a book). Plus I’m not all that impressed with vending machine food. If I want to eat in public I’ll go to a restaurant or if not I’ll go home.

    I actually look for books to check out. I have my usual sections then I usually just browse. I also look through movies and music.

    I have my own computer (laptop), if I need to use the library’s server it is to print documents I fucking NEED (ie guitar tabs, chord charts, resume, etc.) that take far more ink than my own printer has. Other than that I can surf at home for anything else. Plus compared to Kinkos or anywhere else it is far more than a bargain to print something at ten cents a copy, I can even pre-load my library card so I do not have to pay every time I come down to print something. After printing I go straight for the bookshelves, it is bad enough you have two separate areas for computers and both the children’s area where they are playing World of Warcraft and the adult area where everyone is just surfing both look mindless.

    I usually do not have a preference as to which clerk I ask for information from but if the only male librarian is the one guy who is completely rude I will gravitate to the female clerks over him, no matter their looks they are always nicer, plus they don’t talk down to me. In the same token I have met some female librarians who were completely rude as well, their reactions are priceless when I walk away from them in mid-sentence, if it is below you to help me find a book then I can find it myself.

    Things I have observed:

    The moms (I would say dads too, but unfortunately from what I’ve seen it is always the other) are completely worthless at my library. They are the only demographic that lead their kids over to the computers so the computers can babysit them while they look for a book, rather than encourage their kids to do the same thing. I have actually seen the dads encouraging their kids to look for a book and read with them rather than leave them in the computer area unattended.

    The play area in the children’s section is rarely played with, or if there are kids in that are they are toddlers.

    Pedestrians have the right of way, but most moms with SUV’s will try to run you over as you are walking from and to your car.

    The clerks that work the check out are far more polite than those who work information. This I never understand, is there an actual reason for this?

    So that is pretty much my library experience in my neck of the woods.

    • So true, my friend…and your observations are spot-on. The moms in SUVs especially. I’ve nearly gotten hit by them more times than I can count. As for the circulation/reference anomaly, I’ve noticed it too. Can’t really say what causes it.

  2. How would you categorize a patron that gets mistaken for an employee by the other patrons. I’m not talking an hour or so into my stay while I read, browse the web et al downtown because our city lacks a proper bus terminal (thought that’s changing soon) I’m talking five minutes after I sit down… in a comfy chair (not a desk.) I suppose it’s kind of flattering that I look that friendly, professional and competent, though it is more likely the other patron falls nicely into one of your less pleasant descriptions above.

    • I’m laughing out loud at your experience, Christina, because I’ve had that happen before (not at the library, though). I suppose it’s actually a twisted sort of compliment.

  3. lol. This is fantastic. Very creative. Glad I’m not any of these.

  4. […] Here’s a great alphabet list from another blogger that made me laugh! Prawn and Quartered Blog […]

  5. This is so so funny! You’re hilarious. I enjoyed each little section and the pictures are funny, too!
    I’ve never worked at a library, but I’m attached to mine at the hip. Thank goodness THANKGOODNESS for libraries, or else I’m not sure how I could ever research anything or read so much.
    That said, I’ve seen all of these manner of people wandering around me there.
    I wonder which category I fall into…. 😉

  6. This is brilliant! While I haven’t worked at a library, when I was in junior high and high school, I did spend my summers volunteering at ours. I lived in a tiny town of less than 500 people, so it was never very busy (and was only two itty bitty rooms!), but I would cringe every time I saw the car pulling up with this one Mennonite family. There were 7 kids under the age of ten, they’d tear everything up, and the mom would put Babysitter’s Club books on hold for herself. >.<

  7. I too love the library and I’ve seen many of these people, especially now, with free internet. Your post is brilliant.

  8. So you work in a library! NOW I understand! I’ve always thought librarians are kind of like psycholanalysts who don’t ever say anything except ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to pay your fine before you can borrow that.’ Anyway I loved the post.

  9. This was so very many kinds of brilliant.

    My Day = Made!

  10. […] “Howlin’ Mad” Heather over at “Prawn and Quartered” has done the work for me with her recent post, ““An A-Z Field Guide to Library […]

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